Roberta Gambarini: INTERVIEW


Here we’d like to introduce another wonderful interview from a world class jazz vocalist – Roberta Gambarini.

She’ll visit Japan soon and this is her answers from our questions and messages for Japanese followers.

Roberta Gambarini: Interview

  • Hello Roberta!! How are you feeling about going to Japan in this coming May 2019?

I am feeling very excited about my upcoming visit to Japan! Japan is a place that holds a special place in my heart.


  • Thank you for coming to Japan and giving us an opportunity to meet and learnwith you. We’re so excited to work with you! We know that you’ve released lots of albums and one of them was “Shadow of your smile – homage to Japan”. What brought you to be connected to Japan like this?

Japan was the Country where my international career really took flight, with my album ‘Easy to love’. I will be eternally grateful to Japanese fans for listening to my voice and for welcoming my music in their homes.
Plus, I have a very strong personal connection with Japan. My beloved vocal teacher of 20 plus years was Japanese. Her name was Michiko Hirayama. She was a legendary  soprano, a vocal artist who became the muse of a lot of contemporary composers such as Giacinto Scelsi and John Cage. She was a classical musician who became a true vocal experimenter and had an amazing knowledge of the human voice.
Her teachings were fondamental for me in order to get to know my own body,and sing in my natural voice. She died last year at the age of 95, but she kept on singing on stage and recording until the age of 92.
This tour will be dedicated to her loving memory.
  • Could you let us know who are your musical idols? Please tell me about a couple of your most favorite musicians!! May be Ella, Sarah and Carmen?

Of course Ella,Sarah and Carmen (and Billie, Mahalia,Bessie,Dinah) were among my main inspirations in music. But I draw inspiration from a wide number of musicians and singers.

Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, John Coltrane,Thelonious Monk,and my mentors Benny Carter, Hank Jones,James Moody. I also draw inspiration from other musical styles,and love singers like Elis Regina, Maria Callas, Mercedes Sosa,and many more.


  • What part of singing Jazz you love the best? And what is your strong point as a jazz singer?

I love all areas of jazz singing, but the part I love the best is to sing beautiful ballads. There is nothing like a great melody with an amazing lyric. I like to tell stories with my voice.
As to my strongest points as a jazz singer..I don’t look at myself from the outside,and I am the worst at grading myself ( for once, I am never satisfied at my performances! ),so I think the listeners are best equipped to define what they feel my strong points might be…


  • What do you care most as a jazz singer in your music?

As I mentioned before, what I care the most in jazz is the storytelling,and the knowledge and respect of the history of this musical language.

Jazz is an amazing Universe that is very rich in spiritual values and can bring much joy to the lives of performers and listeners alike.


  • How about the recording of your new project? We’re so excited to listen to“Roberta Gambarini honors Ella, Sarah & Carmen/Dedications” soon!! Could you please share your experience about album making?

The recording ‘Dedications’ was made upon request of Mr Takao Ishizuka of All Art Promotions, who is the promoter  for our tour.I gladly took his suggestion for a theme,because these three amazing vocal Masters are among my biggest inspirations.

We recorder the songs in one afternoon at John Lee’s studio in South Orange,New Jersey,the great pianist Jeb Patton and I. I hope you enjoy the selections!


  • What brought you to start working as an educator? What do you like about it?And what do you care most as a teacher? And what is your goal as an educator?

I started working as an educator many years ago while still living in Italy,where I was the vocal teacher at the Civic Jazz School of Milan.

What I most enjoy about teaching is the possibility to transmit my passion for singing,and to watch talents grow and become themselves.

Some of my students in Italy became wonderful performers and I am very proud of them .Among them : Alice Ricciardi and Chiara Pancaldi.


  • Please let us know about how to keep yourself so creative and keep giving a lot to people around you.

What keeps me creative is the constant inspiration that I get from the audience , from students,and from the  ever constant study of the Masters.


  • For the closing of this interview, if you have any message for Japanese
    followers and singers, please let us know!! We are so excited about your tour and masterclass in Tokyo!! Thank you very much!!

I want to thank you all so much for the appreciation and for making me feel so welcome! I am looking forward to seeing you all in person,and interacting with you!
My message to the Japanese friends is .. GAMBARIMAS!!! Keep swinging,keep reaching, and never lose hope in what is good and lovely!


Jazz Vocal Alliance Japan will host Roberta Gambarini Masterclass in Tokyo 2019!!

Please contact us if you’d like to join!


Roberta Gambarini – Biography

Roberta Gambarini

Born and raised in Turin, Italy, to music loving parents (who had actually first met at a jazz concert), Roberta Gambarini grew up constantly listening to her father’s record collection.
Her first vocal inspiration was Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald , but she soon discovered Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday, and Carmen McRae, as well as gospel and blues artists such as Mahalia Jackson and Bessie Smith.

At age 12 she began studying clarinet, but realizing the versatility and talents of her clear alto, she moved to voice, singing and performing in clubs by the time she was 17.

In 1998, Gambarini received a scholarship to study for two years at the New England Conservatory in Boston. Barely 2 weeks after setting foot on American soil for the first
time, Roberta surprised the jazz world by finishing third in the1998 Thelonious Monk Vocal Competition. With this recognition as a springboard and the assistance of some of the greatest musicians in the world, who immediately appreciated her talent and invited her to perform with them, she quickly became a fixture on the international jazz circuit, appearing in major concert halls, Festivals and clubs around the globe ( Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center, Hollywood
Bowl , Jazz at Lincoln Center , the North Sea Jazz Festival, Umbria Jazz Festival, and many more) .

As a result, Roberta has had the good fortune to appear in concert and record with such Giants as Dave Brubeck, James Moody, Hank Jones, Clark Terry, Herbie Hancock, Jimmy Heath, Roy Hargrove, Jimmy Cobb, Al Foster, Michael & Randy Brecker, Slide Hampton, Frank Wess, Harold Mabern, Toots Thielemans, Paquito D’Rivera, Chucho Valdez, Mark O’Connor, Cyrus Chestnut, Percy Heath, Ron Carter, Johnny Griffin, the Dizzy Gillespie All Stars Big Band, Billy Higgins, Cedar Walton, Ray Drummond, George Cables, Mulgrew Miller, Kenny Burrell, Wynton Marsalis’ Jazz at Lincoln Center orchestra, and many others.

Roberta’s first CD, ‘Easy to love’, was nominated for a Grammy Award as was her third, ‘So in love’ ,which was also awarded the Grand Prix du Jazz Vocal 2009 by the Jazz Academy of France. She was twice named the “Female Jazz Singer of the Year” by the Jazz Journalists Association (2007 & 2009).

One of the most important music figures of the 20th century: the late Benny Carter, cited Roberta as his favorite singer. James Moody, the legendary saxophonist and singer, was
Roberta’s mentor and teacher, and introduced her to many of the major venues in the world.
In 2008 Roberta recorded a superb duet album titled ‘You are there’ with the Legendary pianist Hank Jones. Mr. Jones, who accompanied most of the celebrated vocalists of 20th Century
such as Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee, Carmen McRae, and Nat King Cole, declared Roberta Gambarini to be the best singer to emerge in the last 60 years .

In 2015, Roberta recorded a collection of compositions written by yet another of her mentors : Master saxophonist, composer and arranger Jimmy Heath .The album is called ‘Connecting Spirits’ and includes some of Roberta’s own lyrics to Mr Heath’s songs along with lyrics written by Jimmy himself, performed with the legendary Heath Brothers, with Master drummer Tootie Heath.

Every once in a while, a truly great singer comes along who possesses the beauty, individuality, and talent to remind us once again of the magical majesty of the human voice (without the aid of today’s technological tricks! ) .


Roberta Gambarini – Discography

エラ、サラ、カーメンに捧ぐ EASY TO LOVE ソー・イン・ラヴ シャドウ・オブ・ユア・スマイル~オマージュ・トゥ・ジャパン ラッシュ・ライフ Connecting Sprits~Roberta Gambarini Sings The Jimmy Heath Songbook